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Yankees cover for unusually unreliable Rivera

NEW YORK (AP) -- Odd plays somehow seem to happen whenever the
Yankees play the Boston Red Sox.

They just always seem to go New York's way.

The Yankees blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning, preserved
a tie with an alert play by Alfonso Soriano in the field and then
beat the Red Sox 6-5 Wednesday night when Brandon Lyon walked Jorge Posada with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

"We took a chance, they made a play. That's why they're the
Yankees," said Boston's Shea Hillenbrand, who was thrown out at
home to end the top of the ninth.

Just like it's been most years in baseball's greatest rivalry,
the Yankees were better than the Red Sox -- this time just barely.

The win wrapped up a difficult homestand for New York on a
winning note. After losing the first five games, the Yankees beat
Boston in the final two games of a three-game series.

It was the second straight week New York took two of three from
the Red Sox, who still lead the Yankees by a half-game in the AL
East.

"It's early in the season," Lyon said. "We're not going to
dwell on it too much. It would have been nice to win the series.
But this team will keep fighting."

New York broke out to a 5-0 lead after seven innings behind
stellar pitching from Mike Mussina. Boston then began its comeback,
spoiling the shutout bid on Hillenbrand's one-out solo homer in the
eighth.

The Red Sox knocked out Mussina when the first two batters
reached in the ninth and then rallied against the usually reliable Mariano Rivera.

Todd Walker singled to load the bases and Nomar Garciaparra hit
a two-run single. Rivera (1-0) retired the next two batters before
Hillenbrand's RBI single made it 5-4.

Bill Mueller then beat out an infield single that tied the game
and the Red Sox nearly took the lead one batter later.

Trot Nixon hit a hard grounder off first baseman Todd Zeile's
glove. The ball changed directions and bounced away from second
baseman Soriano, who deflected it, recovered with his bare hand and threw out
Hillenbrand at the plate, drawing cheers from owner George
Steinbrenner.

"It was a big uplift for us when we made that play to end the
ninth," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It was a big game for us
to win."

The Yankees then won it in the bottom half against Lyon (1-2).

Hideki Matsui doubled to left with one out and went to third
when Manny Ramirez's throw got past Garciaparra and rolled along
the edge of the Boston dugout long enough for Matsui to advance on
the error.

"That play put us in a bind," Red Sox manager Grady Little
said. "We tried to work our way out of it but it didn't happen."

After intentional walks to Soriano and Jason Giambi, Lyon
thought he struck out Posada on a close 2-2 pitch.

"It's close but it's not a strike," Posada said. "Replays
showed it clearly."

The Red Sox wouldn't comment about the call.

Lyon then missed low with the next one, scoring the winning run.
Catcher Jason Varitek punched the air in frustration, spiked the
ball and then yelled at umpire Joe West as he walked back to the
dugout.

"It's just a shame that we lost," Varitek said. "I was caught
up in the heat of the moment."

Posada drew a game-winning walk for the second straight year
against the Red Sox -- he also drew one off Ugueth Urbina in a 9-8
win last July 21.

In between the series against the Red Sox, the Yankees lost
All-Star outfielder Bernie Williams to an injured knee and were
swept in a four-game series by Toronto. This series against Boston
started with Roger Clemens losing his first bid for 300 wins and
criticisms from Steinbrenner.

The Yankees responded to the turmoil with two well-played games
in a row. And just as Torre hoped, it began with the pitching.

After Andy Pettitte held Boston to two runs in 7 2/3 strong
innings Tuesday, Mussina was just as tough until the end. He
allowed three runs and four hits in eight-plus innings.

"That's a big lift for us," Mussina said. "We haven't won two
games in a row in a long time."

The Yankees hadn't won consecutive games since May 7-8 against
Seattle. New York had lost 12 of 13 at Yankee Stadium before
winning the past two games.

The Yankees broke out to the early lead against Derek Lowe with
an RBI double by Posada in the first. Posada had been 1-for-16 on
the homestand before the hit.

The Yankees added three in the second against Lowe, who once
again struggled away from Fenway Park. Zeile hit an RBI double and
Matsui added a two-run double.

Lowe gave up eight hits and four runs in six innings.

Soriano hit his AL-leading 16th homer, a solo shot in the
seventh off Mike Timlin to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead.

Game notes
Lowe is 1-3 with a 9.62 ERA on the road. He is 3-0 with a
1.53 ERA at Fenway. ... Walker's single extended his hitting streak
to 14 games. ... The Yankees have won 10 of 13 against the Red Sox
dating to last season.